Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Jesus Christ & Charles Darwin - misunderstood, misquoted...

A couple posts ago I got into it yet again with my gadfly, Jason, on the 'tight family tree', that to his mind, encompasses evolutionary theory and Nazism. He is essentially defending the inane argument made in hideous little forthcoming documentary "Expelled" that Darwinism begets Holocausts. I find it to a large degree ironic that Jason AND the producers of this film can make this argument with a straight face while trying to maintain some degree of intellectual honesty.

I will grant that the Hitler, Stalin and some of the robber-baron capitalists at the turn of the 19th century may very well have pointed to Darwin's work as justification for the their sociopathic views. But does that mean that the insight and intuition that Charles Darwin had into the mechanism behind descent with modification is somehow by definition the progenitor of National Socialism, Communism AND the subjugation of workers by corporate elite robber barons? I highly doubt that Mr. Darwin upon finishing his magnum opus cackled to himself evilly and said: "Now we are justified in finally ridding ourselves of all races that are our inferior and and we can also grind the lower classes into powder because that's what nature does! Survival of the fittest forever!" I myself have read "Origin of Species" no where does Mr. Darwin advocate or defend any such thing. Yet the producers of "Expelled" will make the very argument that Mr. Darwin's work AND the ensuing labor of thousands of scientists of varying disciplines over the last 150 years is somehow driving us towards some sort of nefarious end that will be equitable with holocaust. What Hitler and Stalin and Polpot did is NOT a result of Mr. Darwin's idea but a bastardization of Mr. Darwin's idea.

I find it deeply and disturbingly ironic that Jason is very quick to point out the 'twig in my eye' and by extension the eyes of all people who find much value, beauty and truth in the intuition of Darwin, while completely ignoring or glossing over the 2x4 in his eye and the eyes of all others who would equate Darwin with holocausts! I'll elaborate on this.

Over the past 2000 years how many exterminations, burnings, be-headings, torturing of infidels in the name of Christ have there been? Is anyone, atheist or theist, Muslim or Christian justified in saying that these horrible events were a direct result of the teachings of Jesus Christ? Any Christ-follower would be indignant and angry if such a causal link were made between the teachings of Jesus and the Spanish inquisition and rightly so! The justifications offered by the perpetrators of said event are not a result of Jesus' teachings but a complete misuse and/or misunderstanding of those teachings. All compassionate and caring people, of this age either of atheist or theist persuasions, revile and condemn the acts of past Popes and religious leaders.

Given the acts that have been perpetrated in the name of Jesus; is it intellectually honest to make a causal link between Charles Darwin and the Jewish holocaust? Just because Jason and the producers of "Expelled" find themselves in the unenviable position of not liking what Mr Darwin's idea proposes because it goes against their own world view does not give them the right nor the justification to link him (Darwin) to all the evils that have happened in the past 150 years. Similarly I have learned that atheists are NOT justified in linking Jesus to all the evils done in his (Jesus) name just because the perpetrators of said events felt they were doing Jesus', and by extension God's, work here on Earth.

Jesus Christ and Charles Darwin have some very striking similarities in my mind. They both proposed very radical ideas. There is much beauty in both their compelling insights. There are those that followed them that used their ideas to justify abominable cruelty. There are also those who see value in and try to enunciate and refine those ideas to the betterment of all. To my mind and the minds of many people, atheist and theist alike, there is no conflict between the insights of Jesus Christ and Charles Darwin they address different questions. It's only people who are consumed by fear or have a political motivation that would try to suppress either one of these great ideas by trying to link it to cruelties perpetrated by individuals who either knowingly or not had deep misunderstandings the original idea.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The "A"-word...

This post will be a testament to the power of words.

So my wife and I have a bit of a dilemma. Our eldest daughter, 13 going 14, a budding skeptic and free-thinker, much to the pride of her parents, has been reveling in the attention she receives after referring to herself as an 'atheist'. Given that we live in a country that absolutely prides itself in its religiosity and the general negative connotation of the A-word we are naturally concerned that Libby may not be adequately prepared for the misunderstanding or mistrust or even hatred that that word may bring to her. To this day I hear the word 'atheist' and it STILL engenders an emotionally negative response in me, even though I know what it means to be an atheist and I know there is nothing inherently EVIL about the atheistic position. From where does this negativity come? The only answer that makes sense is that it's a holdover from my Catholic indoctrination. I can't pinpoint exactly when I was conditioned to view the word 'atheist' as referring to someone who was 'evil' or even 'satanic'. Such is the power that can be wrongly given to a word that really says nothing about morals. Luckily for my children they will NOT be getting the one-sided explanation of atheism that I and my wife received courtesy of the religious indoctrination of Catholic and Baptist teachings.

This morning I had a brief conversation with Libby regarding the use of the A-word and the negative connotations that come along with its use, much like unwanted baggage. I suggested to her that it might be a good idea to refrain from volunteering too much of her views in the climate of her school especially since she will be attending a Catholic High School this September. To her credit she has been sensitive to the passions that the 'A' word elicits from certain members of her peer group.

For my part I feel she is too young and not educated enough to fully understand the implications and the arguments for and more importantly against an atheistic position. She has had no education in the understanding of the arguments for and against the existence of God. A mediocre Christian apologist could systematically decimate any defense of her position simply due to her intellectual innocence. In that vein, I tried to convey to her that she has many years of study ahead of her and that it would be better to take the 'agnostic' position until she could make an informed decision about her world view. Another 'A' word to be sure but one that has a less passionate response associated with it. Shooting her mouth off will only anger her some in peers or elders in her future and that does no one any good. She seemed to accept that.

I feel it important to convey the idea that I'm not trying to raise 'atheist' children. That has never been my goal. I want to raise children that are capable of and willing to engage in independent and critical thought. If in the end my children choose a theistic position I will accept it. I will disagree with them, but I will respect their positions as their own.

In my own dealings with people of theistic persuasion, I've tried to represent my position openly and honestly and in such a way as to show that I am not an agent of darkness or a pawn of Satan. Some may disagree with me but that's their right. Another person's rights of conscience END where mine begin and vice versa!